When Culture Pops: SEC College Football Season is here (Part 2-SEC West)

Friday, August 29, 2014 - by W. Michael Lawson

Due to the ebb and flow and nature of sports during the spring and summer, this column has had a tendency to wade in the waters of verbosity…to color in lines of sport with hues of human interest…to try and show the corporal face and heart of sport. It might even be thematic, at times. You see, in the South, spring and summer are seasons of more casual things…quieter sports…like baseball, golf, and tennis. It’s an easy and more relaxed cheering that we do. We are more active in our doing, and less vocal with our yells. This changes dramatically, however, with the arrival of autumn and the conjoining college football season, and so must this column with it. There is no more room for rumination of the spirit of things. It’s time for results…stats…winners and losers. Fall in the south is when temperatures chill and passions boil. This quasi secular religion we call football becomes the fulcrum for everything we do. Hiking? Maybe…what time is the game? Movie? Hmm…what time is the game? Party? Will they have the game on? Mall? Sure…they have to have a television somewhere. Weddings? Uh… no. (Except for you MB).

There are many reasons why football is so loved and followed in this area. For me though, the main catalyst for this Seasonal Affective Delusion, if you will, is that it’s when cousins go to war. Meaning, most see the south as some sort of monolith… a vast expanse of sameness…localness…countryness. But we, as southerners, know that this isn’t true. Some states are closer to others in character and composition, but they are all different, and each state has a school. Some states have multiple schools…bringing heated rivalries into the living room and to the kitchen table. Who you choose as your favorite college football team says something about you...and maybe even your family. It is an expression of regional representation…state pride…family pride…and tradition. It is simply a part of our shared cultural fabric…and the tapestry that will tell the story of the 2014 NCAA College Football season is now before us.

2014 will be a very unique year for college football…and for many different reasons:  Inaugural year of the playoff system…continued conference realignment…new NCAA rules giving conferences more power and autonomy…all will have an effect that we can only predict…and still elicit questions. More specifically though, each team, and even more specifically, each team in the SEC, has questions going into this new season. Everyone is dreaming of winning and stardom…of righting old wrongs…ending losing streaks and starting new ones for their foes…but what will they have to overcome to do so? Here is my take on one major question facing each team in the SEC West going into this season…with a brief comment about the games this week…week 1 of this young football season :

1.       Alabama- Is there a “Lane Kiffin” curse? Oakland Raiders, Tennessee Vols, Southern Cal…all hired Lane Kiffin, and all have absolutely stunk since. By all accounts, Kiffin has ruined everything he touches. Now, Bama fans will say that he’s a good Coordinator and not a good Head Coach. Well, maybe. But I’m not so sure that there isn’t bad football karma that the football gods have put on Kiffin. Most point to the QB question as the main issue, if there is one with Bama, but for me it’s Kiffin. He’s a loser, and Saban is a winner. Which gives? *Alabama vs. W. Virginia, Saturday. Bama walks the dog…40-14.

2.       Auburn- Can they replicate a dream season without lady luck? Auburn is going to be as good as they were last year. Maybe, better. Maybe the best in the country. If you have them on your schedule, better bring 100% for 4 quarters. But that was true last year, and they needed two of the craziest miracles ever witnessed to even get to the SEC Championship game. The Tigers from “The Plains” are a fantastic team, but destiny is a fickle date. *Auburn vs. Arkansas, Saturday. Auburn wins handily, 45-28. 

3.       LSU- Will athleticism trump inexperience and youth? LSU seems to be overlooked coming into this year, mainly because they are just so young at key and numerous positions. Youth at offensive skill positions, i.e. Leonard Fournette, can do well immediately, but youth on defense can be a problem. I tend to give Coach Chavis the benefit of the doubt, but an 8-4 season, which is possible, wouldn’t go over well in Baton Rouge. *LSU vs. Wisconsin, Saturday. LSU gets a true test against the perennially overrated Badgers, but wins in the second half, 35-17.

4.       Texas A&M. Will athleticism trump inexperience and youth? No…that isn’t a typo. TAMU lost 3 starters to the first round of the NFL draft last year, and that has to affect production. But Coach Sumlin has recruited well, and the Aggies are loaded. Can this very talented roster get after it from day one and execute the way you have to do in the SEC? *TAMU vs. SC, Thursday. *See Part 1 to see how wrong my prediction was. #smh

5.       Miss State- Is Miss St. ready to be something other than Miss. St.? Coach Dan Mullen has 18 starters returning from a bowl eligible season, and some have the “other Bulldogs” poised to possibly get to 9 or…lord help us…10 wins. QB Dak Prescott is getting Heisman pub, and the defense is always a physical presence. If State can win their home games, they could sneak up on a couple teams on the road. But still…they’ve never “been there before”, and if they get in a tight game with much on the line, can they come through? *Miss St vs. Southern Miss. Bulldogs walk the dog…45-17. 

6.       Ole Miss- Is Ole Miss ready to be something other than Ole Miss? There’s a lot of hype around this team coming into the 2014 season. Some of it deserved. Coach Freeze has recruited incredibly well, and has an established QB, the most important position, with great skill guys. The problem is that Ole Miss never can really get over the hump, as it were. It is incredibly difficult to transcend history and culture, and Ole Miss just isn’t a yearly contender. Can they change the arch of the program at Mississippi? I have doubts, but maybe…*Ole Miss vs. Boise St. Ole Miss won a sloppy game, 35-13.

7.       Arkansas- Is the running game good enough to get an SEC win? Arkansas has one of the best stable of backs in the country. Stop laughing…it’s true. They’ll rotate 3 RBs all season…keeping them fresh for the year, and all three will play on Sundays one day. The Problem? The rest of the team stinks. And frankly…Coach Brett Bielema just isn’t a good coach for an SEC team. Winning 9 games a season doing nothing but running the ball will work elsewhere, but not against the D lines of SEC teams. *Arkansas vs. Auburn, Saturday. Arkansas loses big. See # 2.

--- 

W. Michael Lawson is an alumnus of Lee University and University of Richmond. Mr. Lawson currently hosts a weekly radio show “The Strong Sauce Hour” and Co-hosts a daily sports show “The Sports Drive” on 101.3 FM/1570 AM. You can follow him on twitter @thestrongsauce.


UTC's Levin, Davis Represent Mocs At SoCon Media Day

Two All-Americans are set to represent the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga at the 2016 Southern Conference Football Media Day on Wednesday, July 27, in Spartanburg, S.C.    Senior offensive lineman Corey Levin and senior defensive end Keionta Davis are making the trip to the annual conference kickoff prior to the start of the 2016 college football season.  Head ... (click for more)

UT To Implement New Bag Policy For All Athletic Venues

To enhance safety and expedite fan entry to athletic events, the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, is implementing new safety policies for fans bringing bags into all athletic venues, including Neyland Stadium, beginning in August. Only one clear plastic bag no larger than 12 inches by 6 inches by 12 inches or a one-gallon clear resealable plastic storage bag per person will ... (click for more)

County Schools Receive Community Gift For Almost $1 Million To Fund Public School Bible History Program

Bible in the Schools presented a community gift for nearly $1 million to the Hamilton County Department of Education (HCDE) to reimburse 100 percent of the costs of funding a Bible history program in 18 public schools for the 2015–2016 academic year. Enrollment data for 2015–2016 reported 3,582 students in grades 6–12 elected to take a Bible history classes. “This gift from the ... (click for more)

DA's Office Defends Suspended Sentence In School Bus Driver Rape Case

The District Attorney's Office defended a controversial suspended sentence in a rape case involving a substitute county school bus driver. Prosecutor Jason Demastus said the victim, who was 15 years old at the time of the March 2015 incident, was in agreement on the plea and refused to testify against Alexander Rodriquez. Rodriguez, 34, last Thursday pleaded guilty to ... (click for more)

Make America Good Again - And Response

“No people can be great, who have ceased to be virtuous.”   Samuel Johnson (1709 – 1784) Last week I witnessed first hand the 2016 Republican National Convention in Cleveland, Ohio. As I observed the happenings within the Quicken Arena, the one theme that continued to pop up again and again, was  Make America Great Again .  Of course, that being ... (click for more)

Roy Exum: Keep Mike Carter’s Genius

Mike Carter, who has just been chosen as the “Best Overall” member of the Tennessee Legislature by a group known as the Tennessee Forum and “Legislator of the Year” by Citizens for Home Rule, is truly both. A lawyer and then a Sessions Court judge for 8 ½ years, he is overwhelmingly favored to win a third term during next Thursday’s election and rightly so. While it is laudable ... (click for more)